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Theme for the Day

Whatever time management system you are using it’s useful to give each day a theme for your work. This is the aspect of your work to which you are going to give extra attention that day. It might be a project or it might be something wider, such as strategizing, or more procedural such as speed of response or lack of distraction.

There’s a simple way of deciding on the Theme for the Day. This is based on the Questioning methods described in Secrets of Productive People.

Each morning write out five possible candidates for Theme of the Day. (If you prefer you can do this exercise the night before).

Then choose one, and destroy the list. I usually write the list on my computer so it’s just a matter of deleting the list.

Intoduce the project or other action chosen as early as possible into your work for the day, and keep re-introducing it throughout the day.

If suitable to the theme, you can write a dynamic list for it.

Repeat the whole process for the following day. It does not matter whether your Theme for the Day is the same as the previous day or different.

Reader Comments (5)

I don't see why I would restrict this to work days. Today, for example, I will be mostly wasting time and feeling vaguely guilty about it.
February 21, 2016 at 9:53 | Unregistered CommenterWill

Indeed, there is no reason at all why you have to restrict this to work days.
February 21, 2016 at 9:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wanted to thank you for the Secrets of Productive People book, it has been enormously useful. From reading that, combined with a tip from Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work", I've devised the following system, which is working very well for me; why I'm sharing it here. Using a paper notebook, every morning I make a list of 5 items - either a big project or a category for little tasks (e.g., Meals or Friends). I use a stopwatch and keep track of how many minutes I work on each of the 5 items. It could be 3 minutes or 300 minutes, when I'm done (stopping the watch for breaks) I write down the minute count in a different ink color next to the item. I keep moving between my 5 items, each time adding the minute count. I only cross the item out if I completely finish it, otherwise I continue to accumulate a list of red numbers. I try (but don't succeed) to follow Newport's advice of not working less than 30 minutes on an item once it's been chosen. I also follow your rule: if I complete 3, add 2 more. At the end of a day, I add up all the minutes and put the total next to the date. It has made a huge difference to me to see how FEW projects I can make progress on each day (exactly as you have said), also how "little and often" works so well. Some days, it may be 10 minutes (or even 2 minutes) for an item, but then I can see exactly what I'm avoiding. I don't shred the list, I like to see how today compared with prior days (I put 3 days on each page, a medium sized Filofax notebook). But it makes a big difference when I even progress 2 minutes on a project I've been avoiding - it activates the problem-solving machinery, as you have said. Finally, notating the minutes and not crossing them out until the task is completed means I don't have to re-enter them, so it's quick to keep this log using a small notebook and a watch with a stopwatch function.
February 21, 2016 at 22:54 | Unregistered CommenterLucia

That's a very interesting approach. Keep us posted on how it goes for you.
February 21, 2016 at 23:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I thought about doing that with checkmarks instead of minutes: Spinning 5T.
February 22, 2016 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

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